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Safety Concerns in Genetic Engineering

Genetic engineering is the process of manually inserting fragments of new DNA into an organism. The process of genetic engineering is meant to confer new traits that are not present in the organism. Various organisms have undergone genetic engineering, for instance plants that have been engineered to resist insects and pests, as well as those whose production has been enhanced. Drought is regarded as one of the most important environmental factors that influence the productivity of field crops (Honghong and Xiong, 715). Exploiting the full potential and maintaining the produce stability of crops in dry environments must be done to ensure that the world achieves food security (Yang et al., 469). As is with the case with any technology that portends benefits for its users, genetic engineering has its own risks. In agriculture, genetic engineering is risky to both the consumers of the environment in which they are grown.

Although the health risks of genetic engineering are often downplayed, with scientists being described as alarmist, there is a good chance that these modified organisms can significantly affect their consumers. The genetic engineering industry is tightly controlled by the stakeholders, therefore, it is difficult to independently carry out research on the effects of these genetically modified products. There has been instances where genetically modified plants caused health problems. In the year 1996, soybeans that had had a Brazil nut gene inserted in them to improve their yield as feed triggered an allergic response in test subjects who suffered from Brazil nut allergies.

The biggest risk that genetically engineered plants have on the environment is the likelihood of the genes and consequently the traits they are conferred with getting leaked to non-target species. Crops that have been engineered to be resistant to herbicides have transferred this trait to their wild relatives which have now become invasive. Millions of hectares of agricultural land are now home to weeds that are resistant to conventional herbicides, thus giving rise to super weeds. Sufficient research has not been carried out to explore the effects of feeding animals with genetically engineered plants such as corn. Such research has not been carried out to investigate the consequences of directly consuming modified crops by humans. Concerns have also been raised over the tendency of genetic engineering companies to produce terminator seeds. This means that the modified plants cannot produce viable seeds. Man has always survived by selecting and using the best seeds from the previous season during planting. Using terminator seeds is unethical because it confines even the poor farmers to utilizing products from these companies.

The above possible harms that may occur when genetically engineered plants are used can only be sufficiently comprehended when these organisms are properly tested, including how they interact with the natural environment. Genetic engineering should be subjected to a strict regulation process that starts with the consent stage. The protocols followed in the laboratory up to the time that they are released into the environment should be strict to prevent the unintentional release of any genetically modified organisms. Genetic engineering can confer plants the ability to tolerate a variety of environmental stresses (Josineet al., 5402), therefore, these crops should be produced sustainably with regards to the environment.

Work Cited

Hu, Honghong, and LizhongXiong. “Genetic engineering and breeding of drought-resistant

crops.” Annual review of plant biology 65 (2014): 715-741.

Josine, TchouopouLontchi, et al. “Advances in genetic engineering for plants abiotic stress

control.” African Journal of Biotechnology 10.28 (2011): 5402-5413.

Yang, Shujun, et al. “Narrowing down the targets: towards successful genetic engineering of

drought-tolerant crops.” Molecular plant 3.3 (2010): 469-490.

 

 

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